The idea of having needles stuck in the body may sound disturbing, but acupuncture is an ancient and effective Chinese medical technique. During acupuncture, the skin is penetrated by very thin metal needles places along energy meridians of the body, as identified by thousands of years of Chinese medicine. The needles stimulate healing and balance in the body.
The origins of Chinese acupuncture: Acupuncture dates back over 2,000 years, though some claim it is as old as 4,000 years old. The earliest recorded use, in China, was 200 BC. At that time stone and pottery needles were used, though later gold and silver were employed. Later, needles were used to stimulate the nerve meridians in the body and thus balance the body's yin and yang. Acupuncture was used in ancient China for anesthesia, and today is widely used for the reduction of physical pain.
Benefits Of Chinese Acupuncture
Acupuncture was officially recognized by the National Institute of Health in 1997 as having legitimate medical value. Still it remains unclear exactly how acupuncture works. Some theories hold that needling may stimulate the central nervous system and increase the body's resistance to pain. It may also improve white blood cell count and otherwise spur the immune system. Acupuncture has been used to treat a very wide variety of conditions, including muscular and skeletal pains, nausea, insomnia, migraines, premenstrual syndrome, smoking cessation and infertility.
What To Expect
During an acupuncture session, your therapist will likely first examine you, taking your pulse, looking at your tongue, your skin and your posture. These all provide clues to your health. You will also discuss your medical issues. The acupuncturist will then ask you to lie down on a table. Depending on the insertion sites, you may need to change into a gown.
The acupuncturist will insert needles into various key meridians of your body, twirling them as they are inserted. These needles are as thin as a human hair and many people do not even feel them. At most, you may feel a tiny twinge. In any case, only the tip is inserted. The number of needles used depends on the medical issues to be treated. After all needles are placed, they are left in the body for up to an hour. They are then painlessly removed.
Recommended sessions: Because everyone responds to acupuncture differently, there are no set number of sessions.
Preparation: Do not eat for four hours before treatment. Wear loose clothing that allows good access to the knees and elbows, as these are frequent targets for acupuncture needles.
In rare cases, nerve damage can result from misplaced needles. Reused needles can cause skin or blood infections. Make sure your acupuncturist is using sterile, disposable needles.
Who wouldn't benefit: Acupuncture is not for people seeking a quick fix. In some cases conditions worsen before they get better, or there may be no effect. Many acupuncturists are reluctant to work on women during pregnancy, except in the last month to ease labor.
Acupuncture has been widely used among the celebrity set. Well-known devotees include Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Celine Dion and Cher. Mariah Carey credits acupuncture with allowing her to conceive her twins, and Lucy Liu considers acupuncture to be one of her "beauty secrets."